Fraunhofer, an applied-research organization with institutions throughout Germany, is developing what it calls the InventAIRy Project, an initiative to automatically localize and record inventories in warehouses with the aid of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The conventional procedure for manually inspecting goods in a warehouse is time-consuming and paralyzes a majority of the warehouse operations, Fraunhofer explains. It says employees will no longer have to stand on top of a ladder several meters high with a pen and pad in hand just to count boxes.
Marco Freund, a certified logistics specialist, heads the InventAIRy Project at Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML in Dortmund, Germany.
According to the institute, his vision of an optimized inventory system looks like this: “The person in charge is sitting at his desk and at the press of a button, can inspect inventories or perhaps search for a specific item – without incurring any staffing or logistics costs.”
In this project, the researchers are moving toward the goal of engineering autonomous UAVs, which can move in any direction, access hard-to-reach areas, and are capable of independently navigating and conducting inventory. These flying assistants should be able to localize objects both in the warehouses, as well as the exterior area, and be able to track through barcodes and radio-frequency identification tags, Fraunhofer says.
The individual service robot, as an intelligent mobile object, perceives its environment dynamically on two levels: It detects how the warehouse is configured using motion and camera sensors, for instance, and can orient itself within the warehouse. In addition, the UAV records the stored items in terms of content. The scientists accomplish this with the aid of optical sensors or radio sensors.
“By mid-2015, we intend to start with a partially automated flight. In this phase, the robot equipped with the identification technology hovers – without having to be controlled via remote operation – at one position, and circumvents collisions with obstructions, such as shelves,” the project manager explains.
Read more about the InventAIRy Project here.
Photo courtesy of Fraunhofer